Marvel’s Big Mess: Victoria Alonso’s controversial departure presents rare public drama for the studio

Since 2008, Marvel Studios has been the model of a modern mini studio.

Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige and his small group of executives have reliably brought an uninterrupted line of global blockbusters to theaters and hit TV shows for Disney+ as of 2021. And they’ve done so while keeping virtually all of their behind-the-scenes drama from leaking out to the public.

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It was only a week before that impeccable reputation almost collapsed when Disney, Marvel’s parent company, fired Coward’s highest-profile lieutenant, Victoria Alonso, after 17 years with the company, most recently as president of physical, post-production, visual effects and animation.

“She’s always been a huge part of Marvel,” said former Marvel Studios executive Jeremy Latcham (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) diversity on March 26th. “I was very surprised to see the news. I hope that everything will be fine, that everyone will be friends. It’s a great group of people who have always been very nice to each other. Hopefully nothing will come of it.”

Unfortunately it already has. Sources at Disney say Alonso was fired because of her decision into the moonlight for Amazon Studios as the producer of the Oscar-nominated international film “Argentina, 1985” without notifying the company’s Management Audit Organization, a committee that approves extracurricular business activities. (For example, Disney film exec Sean Bailey got his approval invest in Teremana, Dwayne Johnson’s tequila company.)

Things became untenable, these sources say, after Alonso continued promoting “Argentina, 1985” throughout awards season despite signing an amended employment contract specifically forbidding her to do so. Alonso’s attorney Patty Glaser calls the claim “absolutely ridiculous” and counters that the executive was fired “when she refused to do something she considered reprehensible” — although what that was remains unclear.

Representatives from Marvel and Alonso declined to comment on this story.

Adding to the poignancy is Alonso’s claim that she was “silenced” after a speech at the 2022 GLAAD Awards, in which the openly gay executive named Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek by name for his treatment of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay.” ” Invoice. While Alonso sat for several interviews in the months following her speech, she doesn’t seem to have done any press outside of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — the studio’s first major awards season contender since the original Black Panther Premiere of the film on the red carpet, where she spoke briefly diversity and other outlets.

The dominant theme of the press Alonso has been making lately is her passionate belief in expanding representation at Marvel, which makes her acrimonious departure from Disney all the more remarkable. Arguably the film industry’s most prominent Latino executive, she makes a point of partnering with organizations at the intersection of the communities she represents — like ReFrame, the initiative founded and led by Women in Film and the Sundance Institute to promote diversity on movie sets and in executive suites.

“Every time we called Victoria and asked for something, whether it was in her official role at Marvel or as a mentor, she always said yes,” says Kirsten Schaffer, CEO of Women in Film, describing Alonso as a profound influence on the Gender equality in the business. “Your willingness to stand up and speak up for women and other underrepresented people is unparalleled. There are very few people who do what she does.”

Likewise, Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, hailed Alonso as a “pioneer” in the entertainment industry who has championed the inclusion of LGBTQ people, women and people of color both on camera and behind the scenes. “Her visibility as the industry’s top executive continues to draw attention to the urgent need to increase diversity among studio and network leaders,” says Ellis.

Ben Lopez, who worked with Alonso when he was executive director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, says he wasn’t surprised Alonso used her influence in the industry to champion “Argentina, 1985.” Project on the trial of the military juntas that ruled their birthplace.

“It fits with her ethos of making sure she always speaks for the unrepresented, for the people who can’t speak for themselves,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to seeing where she ends up next. Whether it’s a global studio or her own company, she will continue to innovate and be a powerful voice for underrepresented communities.”

While industry text message chains and Slack conversations have been rife with speculation about what happened and where Alonso will end up next, there hasn’t been any significant public uproar.

“I think people are nervous about rocking the boat,” a veteran producer told diversity on condition of anonymity, guesses. “No one wants to upset Disney.”

Another industry leader questioned how Alonso’s exit might affect her forthcoming memoir originally intended for publication of Disney’s Hyperion Avenue imprint in May.

“When you give someone of this caliber a platform like a book and present that person as a shining example — where it can be used to not only make the brand look good but also empower the next generation — you don’t want that on be clouded on the way out,” says the executive. “It feels inconsistent.”

Regardless of any mitigating circumstances, the veteran producer sees Disney’s decision as a firm one.

“A lot of people in this business think they’re essential, fly too close to the sun, and then they’re shocked to find they don’t have a job,” says the producer. They add that Alonso’s track record is certainly “extraordinary and impressive and she’s earned the right to be open, but I don’t think anyone deserves the right to break their contract.”

Alonso’s messy departure would be bad enough for Marvel, but it comes amid fierce headwinds from all directions. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, with global sales hovering around $500 million, Break-even is unlikely in its theatrical release, making it the company’s first money loser outside of the pandemic period. This film was the latest in several Marvel titles (from Thor: Love and Thunder to She-Hulk: Attorney at Law) to weather criticism for second-rate visual effects — one of Alonso’s key domains — as VFX artists reiterate The studio called and claimed it was forcing them to accept impossible hours and low pay.

Meanwhile, one of the stars of Quantumania, Jonathan Majors, was there calculated on March 26 with multiple counts of assault and molestation of an unnamed woman. That’s what the actor’s lawyer says There is video evidence that exonerates him and the case is pending. But Majors’ character, Kang, is said to be Marvel’s newest Big Bad. He has directed Season 2 of Loki with Tom Hiddleston, which is scheduled to premiere later this year, and is scheduled to be titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty in 2025. A criminal case against one of its newest stars is exactly the kind of headache Marvel doesn’t need.

Additionally, Disney doesn’t currently have a timeline for appointing an executive — or executives — to take over Alonso’s responsibilities, even as multiple titles — like this year’s The Marvels and 2024’s Captain America: New World Order — make their way through Find the Marvel pipeline.

“It’s certainly a big position that we’re trying to replace,” Latcham said. “It’s a really daunting task.”

Matt Donnelly and Marc Malkin contributed to this report.

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